Friday, May 26, 2017


I only had one first place newspaper award before I moved to the Quad Cities. It was for a photograph I had taken of the ice-covered water tower by the Bishop Hill village hall. I stood across the street waiting for the volunteer firemen to get the ladder truck and themselves into position to spray water onto the eleven-ton icicle. Even though it was a sunny January day it was still cold enough to get chilled to the bone before they started working. They finally got the tower free of ice and I got my photo.

Winning for that photo was a surprise for me. I made sure to get photographic documentation, since I wouldn’t be able to keep the plaque. It still hangs in the lobby of the Galva News.

Getting recognition for my writing had to wait until moving to the Quad Cities and becoming more involved with the Midwest Writing Center by going to workshops, attending the annual June conference, and entering the MWC’s Iron Pen contests. All those helped to stretch the writing muscles.

Being chosen for the Outstanding Literary Artist Award at the MWC’s annual meeting was a great honor. There are so many talented and deserving writers and authors in our QC area I find it humbling to be so recognized. 

The presentation itself was brief with no time to say anything. But I came prepared with the following remarks:

“This award is for anyone who has sat in the back row of a Midwest Writing Center workshop thinking:

Don’t ask me a question.
Don’t make me talk.
I have to write something?

To the back row I say—


Amazing things can happen.”

I know because something amazing happened for me.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

What’s Your CreateSpace Story?

I can ask this question because I now have my own CreateSpace story.

Earlier in May I was coming up short on having copies of my book on hand. Same with my publisher. The initial printing run of 200 copies of my book was very nearly gone. Nice, but it was time to reorder. Since my publisher went with CreateSpace and it’s based on the print-on-demand principle, they would be able to make smaller orders and therefore limit the odds of them having too many unsold books in storage at any given time. Anything that lowers a business’s overhead is a good deal. We’ve all heard stories and jokes about books being remaindered. Not good. Every book deserves a home.

All was cool … UNTIL the possibility of making corrections to the inside text was mentioned. 

Make no mistake, editing is hard work. All books contain typos that were missed. Most are so minor that a reader usually glosses over them and goes on. If I notice something when I’m reading I usually make a small mental shrug and go on. Mistakes must be really major in order to drop me out of the narrative. Probably on the level of content and plot points. This is why there are different types of editors: content and line are the basic ones. Content editors look at the big picture and search out the plot holes giving the author time to plug them. Line editors are what I like to call the real grammar Nazis. I picture them diagraming sentences in their dreams.

After all the levels of editing Clouds Over Bishop Hill went through before publishing—I knew of three things I wanted to change. (I did change them for the eBook version.) Having the chance to upgrade the print version was way too tempting to pass up.

So, I threw caution into the wind and meddled with a book that was doing fine. To make changes that for all intents and purposes were only important to four people, one of whom was deceased.

There was that little voice that had me wondering if it would really be worthwhile. I ignored the pesky voice of caution and all the other warning signs, and I went ahead. I clicked that last button …

And the online print edition of my book disappeared from Amazon.

That’s when panic and the question of my sanity set in.

You see, I’d finally approached Barnes & Noble two days before this and they had placed an online order. I was going to Sweden and wanted to take books with me. I had a major disaster on my hands.

Somehow, my better half came to the rescue and got things sort of fixed. The book was back online—but listed as NOT AVAILABLE RIGHT NOW!

The only thing I could do was wait for the computers to catch up with the changes I made.

The wait for Amazon only took a few hours. After one very sleepless night, expanded distribution was back early the next morning.

Right now, Amazon looks like it’s back to normal. I didn’t lose my reviews. Barnes & Noble has their books. I have my new books. The changes are nice. All is well with the world.

However, I can say for sure that I never want to see this screen again:

Friday, May 12, 2017

The AnderSSon Conspiracy

There are a lot of characters named Anderson in my novel, Clouds Over Bishop Hill. I put them there for the best of reasons—I was in a hurry, and it was easier than coming up with a host of neat and clever Swedish names.

I’ve known quite a few Andersons from my time in Bishop Hill and from listening to A Prairie Home Companion, the radio show formerly hosted by Garrison Keeler. But I didn’t stop there, no, I did further research by checking out the local telephone books. Sure enough, I found lots of Andersons. Pages of Andersons. I figured I was good.

That was then. Now—I know there’s more to the story.

During my correspondence about visiting the Bishop Hill Museum in Biskopskulla, Sweden, I discovered that I was guilty of a major faux pas: I addressed an Andersson by using only one S instead of two.  

I first blamed it on my poor self-editing skills. I’ve had editors, real editors, find all manner of mistakes in my manuscript. The most embarrassing was the time I mentally wanted to use the word fridge, short for refrigerator, and instead I was really using frig. Frig is not a very nice word for a cozy mystery no matter what the context. I will always be beholding to Lyle Ernst for catching that one in time.

Lyle found the mistake all right, but he didn’t catch it on the first time I used the (bad) word—it was more like the fifth time. For one thing, it just goes to show how difficult editing is. And for another thing, I must work on expanding my vocabulary.

Since I knew there are many pages of Andersons in the area phone books, I made myself go back and look for Anderssons. If there were thousands of them in Minneapolis then surely there would be a good representation of them down here. I looked through the four telephone books I had on hand and was totally shocked to NOT find a single one.

The disappearing Anderssons appears to be a bigger mystery than what happened to the last Olof Krans portrait.

I will be asking more questions about this.

Friday, May 5, 2017

Character Studies

Careful, or
you’ll end up in
my novel.

I have a t-shirt that displays the above saying.

So, is it a warning?

I thought so at one time. But now I’m not so sure.

I’ve talked about how I’ve made up my characters out bits and pieces of people I’ve known. Friends, relatives, even a complete stranger or two have given me inspiration for mannerisms, inclinations, accents, and a whole host of possible behaviors that have gone into any number of the people of my novel.

Whenever I read I find myself on the lookout for the odd tidbits I might tailor to my own uses in character development.

I’ve had good results with this system and I’m rather fond of my cast of characters. The good and the bad all have enough variety to hold one’s attention. Well, mine anyway.

Therefore, I’m not so sure the t-shirt should serve as a warning any more.

I’m wondering if my t-shirt should be an invitation—yet another way to save a snapshot of someone—a small portrait, if you will. Each person has a life; has a story to tell; and who is, therefore, worth remembering. Each person is someone who must be remembered.